James Bryan and the Revolutionary War


On June 15, 1776 the Delaware assembly suspended all Royal authority and within a month had joined the other colonies in the War for American Independence. James Bryan had just turned thirteen when war was declared. On September 3, 1777 the Battle of Cooch's Bridge was fought about ___ miles from the Bryan home. This was one of the major battles of the war, and the only one to be fought on Delaware soil. But Delaware's geography is such that it is between two bays that were used to transport troops to Philadelphia, New Jersey and Charlestown, NC where major battles were fought throughout the conflict.

Delaware is the second smallest state. It is 96 miles long and varies from 9 to 35 miles in width. The state has only three counties. New Castle in the northern part of the state, Kent in the center, and in the southern part of the state, the Bryan's county which is called Sussex. Sussex County was a hotbed of Loyalist or Torrie (Americans opposed to Independence from Britian) activity.

Hancock, Harold B. The Loyalists of Revolutionary Delaware. (1977)

"The activities of Tories in Sussex County...and in Kent County in the spring and summer of 1777 kept Brigadier-General Caesar Rodney busy. In his home county (Sussex) the centers of disaffection were along the Mispillion, Duck, and Murderkill Creeks, which were avenues leading to British ships in Delaware bay and River. In July, General Rodney captured Jonas Edingfield and John Ashworthy of Bombay Hook and John Conner of Thoroughfare Neck, all of whom had been selling cattle. Conner had also piloted the enemy's barges up Duck Creek on a plundering expedition. In Mispillion Neck trading had become such an evil that patriots feared to inform on Tory neighbors."

University of Delaware Library: Delaware in Wartime

"A small minority of Delaware loyalists remained active during the war, the most prominent being Thomas Robinson, a wealthy Sussex merchant and member o the state assembly. On several occasions loyalists did gather under arms, but they did not constitute enough of a threat to form an effective resistance. They did, however, keep Delaware militia companies busy, and Continental troops had to be sent to Delaware twice by Congress."

If I am interpreting these documents correctly, James Bryan enlisted on his 15th birthday. Delaware had been at war for almost three years. According to his account, James spent most of his time guarding the coast and waterways against invasion and dealing with Loyalist uprisings. In December of 1779, "a huge expeditionary force sailed from New York harbor" down the coast of Delaware, to Charlestown, SC where, after a three month seige, they finally took the city. It's not clear if James witnessed this from his post, but he certainly heard tale of the imposing fleet passing the length of the state.

I believe he was in an infantry or perhaps a militia because he describes being ordered to "march to Philadelphia" as opposed to riding. The rest of the time he seems to have been posted fairly close (within 35 miles), to his family's farm and returned there for the winters between his three tours of duty.

The surrender of Lord Cornwallis which James referrs to near the end of his first application happened on October 19th, 1781.
Documents Contained in James Bryan's Pension File at the National Archives.
State of Pennsylvania
County of Fayette

On this 2nd day of September 1834 personally appeared before the Hon. Thomas H. Baird(?) xxxof the agent for said county ___ ____ James Bryan a resident of the township of Union in the county of Fayette and State of Pennsylvania, aged 71(?) years, who being first duly sworn, according to law, doth on his oath make the following declaration, in order to obtain the benefit of the act of Congress passed June 7 1832. That he engaged in the service of the United States in the year A.D. 1779 (?) as a volunteer for the term of 8 months on the 12 April of said year under the following named officers.

That he first volunteered as aforesaid in the company commanded by Captain Shafer and that he believes that he was attached to Col. Mitchel's Regiment all of the Delaware Line of Sussex county in the State of Delaware, and that they was ordered to the mouth of Mispillion Creek aforesaid county was there to continue to guard against the enemy vis Refugees, Tories and British who was repeatedly committing there many depredations from the mouth of said creeke up to Walton's Landing and that they was also guarding the Bay of Culpehenloper, Broadkill Creeke, Pilot Town and Plumb Point and that he there continued in said service until he was honorably discharded by the said officers on or about the 25th day of December of said year at Plumb (Point?).

Second tour in which he volunteered for the term of 8 months more, under the said officers on or about the 10th day of March 1780 and again ordered out to the said Milspillion creeke, also as _____ required they was ordered to the forenamed places and likewise to Lewes Town and ____ which neighborhood they continued for some considerable time until ordered to the Light house at Capehenloper __ where they remained perhaps about 2 months as near as the declarent can recollect and from thence to (Indian?) River (Lots I can't read here). and after about one week they was ordered ___ the said river to Rehobath Bay where they remained there and in that part of the county for serveral weeks, after which they was ordered to the said Lewes town and deponent believes from there to the Lighthouse at Cape Henloper where they remained until they was taken to Broadkill Creek and detained there until they was ordered from hence to Pilot Town where they remained until he was honorably discharged by his said officers on or about the 13th of November of said year. And that some time in the summer of 1781 declarent engaged for the term of 3 months under the said officers as well as deponent at present recollects and that they then expected to march to, or near New York but not being _____ in time they was not called on at least did not march to that place, that some time after which they was ordered to march to Philadelphia. The declarent believes from that to Virginia but that there orders was remanded and that they was discharged in Sussex county but two weeks before his said three months tour expired which ___ about the time of Lord Cornwallis surrender after which he was __ out the said service declarent states that from his late sickness and infirmity that having no record of his age that his birth may have been in the year 1763 but that he believes that he was only in his 15th year when he first engaged in the said service and that ___ statement contains the whole of his services as ___ as deponent can possibly recollect amounting to 19 months as a volunteer for which he claims a pension __ ___ last 3 month tour may not be satisfactory to the Hon Department as no having served but 2 months and two weeks, he claims a pension for the said 2 months tours of 16 months and ___ that he cannot recollect the dates of his 3 ____ than above stated.

And that he was born on the 12th of April A.D. 1764 or 1 in the said County fo Sussex in the State of Delaware aforesaid where he resided during the whole ____ of the said Revolutionary War about two miles from the town of Milford and that the Year A.D. 1795 he moved to Fort Cumberland County of Alegheney in the State of Maryland where he resided until the year 1825 and from there moved to the State of Pennsylvania in the County of Fayette, and township of Union aforesaid where he _____ that he has no documentary evidence of his said services that his discharge was ____ ____ he came to the said county of Fayette where he yet resides.

We Thorton Flemming, a Clergyman residing in the Town of Union of said county Samuel Sutton _______________ hereby certify that they are acquainted with the said James Bryan who has subsscribed and sworn to the above declaration that they believe him to be 70 years of age, that he is reputed and believed in the neighborhood where he resides, to have been a soldier of the revolution, and that they concur in that afore___ and subscribed, the day and year aforesaid.

Rich Beeson
Thorton Flemming
Samuel Sutton

Union Town Oct 10, 1834

James L. Edwards Esq.

At the request of Mr. Sutton I sware that I am personally acquainted with James Bryant and James Eberson, Victor Shaw, and Danl MCarther who are applicants for pensions under the act of 7th June 1832 and that from my knowledge of them I do not believe that they would on oath mistake facts they are all in very indigent circumstances and stand in need of assistance from their country for support - I have no reason to doubt the justice of their claims.

Very respectfully
Yo No Obok Suits(?)
Andrew L_________

State of Pennsylvania
County of Fayette
Personally appeared before me the under signed a Justice of the Peace for said county James Bryan who being duly sworn deposethe and ____ by reason of old age and the conf____ loss of memory, he cannot swear positively to the exact length of his services testifing to the best of his recollection, he served for not less than the periods mentioned below, and in the following ____ as a volunteer for the terms of (eight is crossed out here) six months in my first term and that after my said tern expired late in the year of 1779 I was discharged by Col. Mitchel.

And that in the following year, on or about the tenth of March 1780 I again volunteered and served for(eight is crossed out here) six months longer in the said company commanded by Captain Shafer, and of Colonel Mitchel's Regiment, and by whom I was honorably discharged on or about the 12th of September 1780, or not exceeding the 16th of the said month of September, by the said officers under whom he was first, and secondly under during the above mentioned two six month tours.

And that on or about the first of August 1781 he again volunteered for the tern of three months under the said officers (or at least under the same Captain and Colonel) who told us that our next campaign would be to New York, but when we went to Philadelphia and remained there for one month and from thence we was expected to have marched to Virginia but before we marched the said orders was remanded and that on or about the first or second day of September of said year I was honorably discharged by the said officers and that I served as a volunteer for the term of (eight is crossed out here) six months as above and that ____ served for six months more which was in my second tour likewise as a volunteer and that in my third term which was for the term of three months as a volunteer but discharged after serving one month making the whole at least thirteen months and for such service I claim a pension.

And that after being under a particular charge for more than one year first for to endevour to recollect all the facts relative to my said services of which I had been under the impression that I had actually served much served much longer than the above periods vut that on repeated and particular examinations and that I could not clearly recollect of any further services other than the above and together with my former dec laration sworn to at Uniontown some time on or aout the last of August or first of September last of which I have no copy preserved but I believe it all to be correct _______ the above amendment which I hope will be satisfactory and that I have no knowledge of any person living who served with me for to testify in support of any claim for whom I have made many enquiries and that it is only my power to recollect differently as I would wish since my memory have been so much impared by sickness and age.

James Bryan

Sworn and __________ before me a Justice of the Peace in and for said County given under my hand at Union Town this 20th day of April A.D. 1835.

Clemment Woods

I Richard Beeson Clerk of the County Fayette County Certify that Clement Wood is a magistrate as above and that the above certificate and signature _________ to be his is genuine. In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and the seal of said court at Union Town the 21th day of April 1835.

Rich Beeson AR

Union Town Fayette County Pennsylvania
23 April 1835
The enclosed declaration of old Mr. Bryan's which perhaps do not contain the whole of his services, but it contains all that he can recollect also all that he appears to be perfectly willing to testify to, his memory and health are much impaired. His character is unquestionably good - I do not know whether I should have enserted the whole as in a new declaration or not, as I am but little acquainted with the proper manner of proceeding - Please to reply when convenient.

J.L. Edwards
Commissioner of Pensions
Washington City

I have the honor to be respectfully Sir Your obt Servant
Samuel Sutton

File No 5304
James Bryan
Pri Rev. War
Act: June 7, 1832 Index Vol M, Page 43

Union Town June 5th, 1837
Mr. Edwards,

I send you an amendment to James Bryan's Declaratin to obtain the benefit of the Pension Act of 1832. From the letters to Messrs. Sutton and Stewart, i find that the defects of Mr. Bryan's declaration were, his neglecting to state that he was not engaged in any other business than that of a soldier, and the too great length of the tours sworn to. The enclosed Declaration, you will observe remedies the first defect in regard to the second he still thinks that the tours were of longer duration than three months, but is certain that he was in arms for that length of time at least.

When the former declaration was made, Mr. Bryan lived in Union Town; he now lives in Franklin township. If this Declaration in conjunction with the others, will entitle him to a pension in the opinion of the Department, you will please to send me word as soon as you conveniently can , as Mr. Bryan is both old and feeble. If not you would confer a great favour by letting me know what else is wanting. He will then make a fourth application; as he thinks himself justly entitled to the pension he claims.--

Please accept Mr. Bryan's and my thanks for your prompt and satisfactory answer to my former letter.

Very respectfully yours,
Wm. E. Austin
Mr. J.L. Edwards

In order to obtain the benefit of the Act of Congress, passed June 7, 1832.

State of Pennsylvania
County of Fayette

On this 5th day of June, personally appeared in open court before the Court of Common Pleas for the County of Fayette, in the State of Pennsylvania now sitting, James Bryan a resident of Franklin township in the County of Fayette and State of Pennsylvania who being duly sworn according to law doth on his oath make the following declaration:

That he served in the Revolutionary army as stated in his Declaration filed in the Pension Office; that he served two tours of at least three months back in the further States that during that time he was engaged in no other pursuits than the business and duties of a soldier.

James Bryan

June 5 th 1837
Sworn and Subscribed in open court
Thos. Sloan Protty

I Thomas Sloan, Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas for the County of Fayette in the state of Pennsylvania, do thereby certify, that the foregiving contains the proceedings of the said Court, in the matter of the application of James Bryan for a pension.

In testimony where of I have hereunto set my hand and seal of office, this 5th day of June 1837. Thomas Sloan

Treasury Department,
Second Comptroller's Office,
June 5, 1839

Sir: Under the act of the 6th of April, 1838, entitled "A R act directing the transfer of nomey remaining unclaimed by certain Pensioners, and authorizing the payment of the same at the Treasury of the United States, " James Bryan, a Pensioner on the Roll of the Philadelphia, Pa Agency, at the rate of Twenty three Dollars and thirty three Cents per annum, under the law of the 7th of June 1832, has been paid at this Department, from the 4th of March 1838, to the 4th Sept. 1838.

Respectfully yours,
______ K. Parri
To the Commissioner of Pensions,

Further Research

Alphabetical List of Officers of the Continental Army
Fifteenth Virginia
page 395
Mitchell, James (Del). Major Delaware Militia in 1780.

Alphabetical List of Officers of the Continental Army
Fifteenth Virginia
page 395
Mitchell, Nathaniel (Del). Adjutant Delaware Regiment in 1775; Captain of Patterson's Delaware Battalion of the Flying Camp, July to December, 1776; Captain of Grayson's Additional Continental Regiment, 20th January, 1777; Major, 23d December, 1777; transferred to Gist's Regiment, 22d April, 1779; retired 1st January, 1781. (Died 21st February, 1814.)

Nathaniel Mitchel - strongly suspect that is the first name of James' Col. Mitchel. LDS shows a Nathaniel Mitchel born to JAMES MITCHELL and MARGARET DOGWORTHY in 1753 Laurel, Sussex, Delaware. A Nathaniel Mitchel married HANNAH MORRIS in 1775 in DE.

LDS also shows a Nathaniel Mitchel born Sussex, Delaware in 1752 to George MITCHELL and Susan. Either of these could be correct. Need to find out more about patriot.


This Federalist served as the governor of Delaware between 1805-1808. He was born in Laurel in 1752, attended Old Christ Church, and is buried in this churchyard. Mitchell was commissioned as adjutant of militia 1775, promoted captain in 1776, and appointed brigade major in 1779. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress between 1786-1788 and was a member of Delaware’s General Assembly between 1808-1812.

Source: http://www.archives.lib.de.us/markers/

A Proclamation Schedule of the Names and Rank of Most of the Officers of the War of Independence Delaware page 633
Mitchel, Nathaniel, Major, Gist's.

Database: Revolutionary War Service Records, 1775-83
Nathaniel Mitchel CAPT Roll/Box 124
Nathaniel Mitchel MAJOR Roll/Box 123


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